251 Pike's Map of New Spain
Published in 1810 in “An Account of Expeditions to the Sources of the Mississippi, and Through the Western Parts of Louisiana, to the Sources of the Arkansaw, Kans, La Platte, and Pierre Jaun, Rivers,” Zebulon M. Pike’s map titled “A Map of The Internal Provinces of New Spain,” depicts territories extending from the Baja California Peninsula to Nacogdoches in east Texas, provincial boundaries and capitals, Indian and Spanish villages, and notes on the exploration of the west. Pike’s map corrected and improved on Alexander von Humboldt’s manuscript map of New Spain, which was not published until 1811, but was available to Pike. He was able to use firsthand knowledge gained from his exploration of the Southwest and the West at the beginning of the 1800s.
Pike was a soldier in the U.S Army, and in August of 1805, General James Wilkinson tasked him with conducting an exploration of the upper Mississippi River, which ended in St. Louis in April of 1806. After the successful conclusion of that expedition, Pike was sent out on another exploration in July 1806, accompanied by more than 20 men as assigned by General James Wilkinson, governor of Louisiana to map the Red River westward and, covertly, scout Spanish Santa Fe. The journey took Pike and his team across Missouri and Kansas, up the Arkansas River and into Colorado, where he was captivated by the blue peak in the Rocky Mountains (now known as Pike’s Peak). By February of 1807, Pike had made it into New Mexico, where he and some of his men were arrested by Spanish authorities, questioned about his presence and purpose in Spanish territory, and later held prisoner. Following his release, Pike went south to Chihuahua, where he gathered valuable information about regions of northern New Spain.
Pike’s map illustrates Spanish possessions in the Southwest- an important stretch of territory that had not been explored and referenced mainly through rumors before this map was created. While it draws on many similarities to Humbolt’s map, it depiction of Texas’ interior was greatly improved in accuracy, along with the rivers, with minor distortions in the lower courses of the Sabine and Neches rivers, in the East. The rendering of the Brazos River represents its first depiction in a printed map, with its length and shape presented close to their actual appearance. This map served as a valuable source of reference, defining the Southwest and Spanish territories in a way that was not achieved before.
All sizes are approximate.
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